Prayut ‘unlikely to scrap House in PM stalemate’

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CDC chief says junta holds absolute power but may not use it to dissolve Parliament.

CHIEF CONSTITUTION writer Meechai Ruchupan yesterday admitted the ruling junta would still hold absolute power under Article 44, which can be enforced to dissolve the House, but said also “propriety” was another matter.

The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) chairman said he believed the new Parliament would not fail to reach an agreement in selecting a premier.

The remark came after claims that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) had the power to dissolve Parliament if its members could not agree on a choice for prime minister after a general election planned for late next year or early 2018.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said last week that General Prayut Chan-o-cha could order the dissolution in such circumstances. However, he then denied saying so, insisting he only meant the House dissolution via giving back power to the people.

Meechai said yesterday it was plausible under the new charter for the NCPO chief to retain the same power until the new government came into office, but added rhetorically: “You have the capability to jump off the building, but should you?”

He explained that like any other government, the junta is obliged to act in office until a new Cabinet is formed.

While an ordinary acting government does not have the capability to dissolve the House, the NCPO does because Prayut holds the power of the Article 44, allowed by the constitution passed in the August’s referendum.

But the chief drafter was optimistic that the new parliament would not face a dead end. The mechanisms provided would be sufficient to steer it forward, and over the course of the next two years there might even be other changes, Meechai said.

EC to face structural change

He added that all the speculation today might prove incorrect and members of House of Representatives might be able to garner 300 hands and successfully join forces in choosing a prime minister.

But he declined to say whether the mechanisms in the charter would pressure the rival Democrat and Pheu Thai parties to call a truce to form a government.

In a related development, Election Commission (EC) member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said yesterday in a lecture at the King Prajadhipok’s Institute that for technical reasons – such as the result announcement date – the next election might be held sooner.

Concerning the restructuring of provincial EC offices, Somchai said that the recruitment method should be adjusted and that members should come from the civil society rather than from the government agencies.

The latter, Somchai said, were more prone to be linked with politicians and this could result in a non-transparent election organisation.

Under the new constitution, the EC will be subject to a major structural change which will see its panel increased to seven commissioners from the current five.

The National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) yesterday voted to propose to the CDC that current EC members who are qualified by the charter could continue their terms and two additional members should be recruited within 30 days after the organic law is promulgated.

While some NRSA members such as Kamnoon Sitharaman expressed concerns that the uneven terms of service might cause trouble in future, 150 members passed the proposal on the EC organic law. Five voted against, with 10 abstaining.

Revised draft charter against will of referendum, court rules

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THE Constitutional Court yesterday ruled that the revised draft charter made by the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) was against the will of the August 7 referendum.

An additional question in the referendum had asked voters to accept that the appointed Senate should join with the House of Representatives in selecting a candidate for prime minister during the five-year transitional period.

The court wanted the charter to make clear that the appointed senators should be able to join the House of Representatives in waiving a list of PM candidates drawn up by political parties if they could not vote for any candidate in the normal process. Later, they could join them in selecting a prime minister, as revised in the charter draft by the CDC.

It also said the charter should be specific on the period of time, when there is a Parliament in place, not after an MP election as revised by the CDC.

The CDC will have to bring the charter draft back and revise it again within 15 days. Promulgation of the new charter is scheduled for November, but this could now be postponed.

CDC chief Meechai Ruchupan acknowledged the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the Senate should also be able to join MPs in requesting to waive candidate lists proposed by parties.

He did not confirm whether the ruling meant the Senate would be eligible to propose the candidates for prime minister, but said the court’s announcement did not say so.

No conflict with CDC over draft, insists Constitutional Court source

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THE CONSTITUTIONAL Court is not in conflict with the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), despite twice rejecting the CDC’s submission of the revised charter draft due to incomplete procedures, a source at the court insisted yesterday.

“We are not in conflict with the CDC and we perform our duties as normal.

“We found that the CDC’s charter document submission was incomplete, so we issued an instruction to correct it – that’s all,” said the source.

The source said that once the CDC had followed its instructions, the court would then proceed with the matter, with deliberation scheduled for September 7. CDC chief Meechai Ruchupan yesterday signed a letter authorising a Parliament official to additionally submit it to the court.

The CDC first submitted the revised charter draft along with a revised preamble of the charter and an explanation of the amendment to the court on Monday.

However, it pulled the documents back |the following morning due to a minor procedural issue amid speculation that some undisclosed changes would be made behind closed |doors.

The CDC had finished revising the draft regarding the additional question pertaining to the appointment of the prime minister approved by a majority of voters in the August 7 referendum.

It asked the voters whether they would allow the joint houses of Parliament to “consider approving” the appropriate person to be appointed as prime minister during the first five years after a general election.

The drafters agreed that the extra question only allowed appointed senators to join the Lower House in the final voting process, but not the initial nomination of candidates, regardless of the contradictory explanation by the National Legislative Assembly.

The CDC resubmitted the documents on Wednesday but its submission was again rejected by the court.

According to the court, the CDC’s submission on Monday by a parliament administration official was later than the normal closing time of the court’s office.

It also omitted the CDC members’ signatures while there was no authorisation letter attached.

On the second occasion, the CDC’s submission again omitted a letter of authorisation.

CDC spokesman Udom Ratamarit said the hiccup was not because of charter content, but because of the court’s required submission |procedures.

No changes to revised draft charter after hitch: Meechai

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THE NATION September 1, 2016 1:00 am

CHARTER DRAFTERS did not make any change to the revised version earlier pulled from the Constitutional Court due to technical errors, chief author Meechai Ruchupan said yesterday.

Meechai said the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) got down to work yesterday on some organic laws after resubmitting amendment of the charter’s Article 272 to the Constitutional Court, having corrected errors involving the court’s document submission procedures and requirements.

He reaffirmed that the drafters had not made any change to the amendment that deviated from what they had told the public.

The CDC held a press briefing on Monday regarding interpretation of the controversial additional question approved in the referendum regarding the appointment of a prime minister, which reads: “The joint Parliament shall consider approving the appropriate person to be appointed as prime minister”.

They agreed that the extra question only allowed appointed senators to be involved in the final voting process for a future prime minister for the first five years, regardless of the contradictory explanation by the National Legislative Assembly.

The documents resubmitted to the court also included the changes to the preamble of the charter and an explanation of the amendment, CDC spokesman Udom Rathamarit said.

The CDC submitted the amendment on Monday, but pulled it back the following morning due to a minor procedural issue amid speculation that some undisclosed changes would be made behind closed doors.

A source familiar with the CDC said that the panel must submit the documents in the form of a request for the court to review them, according to court regulations.

The court’s public relations authority said the judges would consider the amendment and would announce their decision within the set timeframe.

The court, however, found that the CDC had not issued an authorisation letter to accompany the document. Hence, it called on the CDC to produce the authorisation letter and submit it to court by Monday.

After completion of the constitution draft, the CDC will have to work on another 10 organic laws involving elections, political parties, the Parliament and the independent agencies.

According to Meechai, only the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had submitted its bill. NHRC representatives met with the drafters yesterday to explain how the bills had been written, including the rationale behind the clauses.

The constitution draft gives the CDC 240 days to finish the 10 laws, but authorities promised to finish at least four of them concerning an election within four months to clear the way for the holding of a general election next year.

CDC submits to court charter section on selecting PM

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THE Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) yesterday finished revising the charter draft’s transitory section 272, which concerns the process to select the prime minister during the first five years after the next election, in line with the additional question approved in the recent referendum.

Drafters then submitted the section to the Constitutional Court for further deliberation.

The revision includes a new paragraph in the section that allows appointed senators to join the Lower House to select a prime minister from the lists of candidates drawn up by the elected political parties.

Only the Lower House will be able to nominate candidates, but if there is deadlock in the initial process, a majority vote in the Lower House call for a waiver of the lists, opening the way for both Houses in Parliament to select a different candidate, who would not have to be nominated by the party lists.

A candidate will have to gain more than half the votes of the joint Parliament to be selected as prime minister.

According to a press briefing, the CDC deliberated on the matter in detail, considering the extra question, which reads: “The joint Parliament shall consider approving the appropriate person to be appointed as prime minister”.

Drafters agreed that the extra question only involved the final voting process, adding that it should be interpreted literally because it had been approved by the voters in a national referendum.

“The CDC’s decision very strictly held to the literal meaning of the additional question,” said CDC spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni at the press briefing, adding that the CDC also considered related documents distributed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) prior to the referendum.

CDC members concluded that the NLA had not specified that the Senate would join MPs in the nomination of candidates.

Drafters yesterday submitted the revised charter draft along with an explanation for the Constitution Court’s deliberation, while some NLA members were still offering contradictory explanations insisting that the question meant that the Senate should have power to nominate.

Chief drafter Meechai Ruchupan said yesterday that the court ruling would resolve the disagreement on the interpretation of the question, which would provide clarity.

The interim charter of 2014 stipulates that after the referendum, the charter should be amended in line with the vote results, then forwarded to the Constitutional Court before it is sent to the prime minister and submitted for Royal endorsement.

NLA speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said legislators were preparing meeting minutes regarding the additional question, related statements by NLA members and reports from field trips by members ahead of the referendum to explain the issue to voters.

He said there was no hidden agenda, and the Constitutional Court’s decision whether to hear testimony or consider other submissions would decide the issue. “If the Court requests it, the NLA is ready to explain. From my experience, I believe that when the Court deliberates on anything, it will heed the opinions from all sides first,” Pornpetch said.

Following the completion of the constitution draft, the CDC and the NLA will continue to consider the 10 organic laws, four of which are scheduled to be finished within four months to prepare for next year’s election.

Preliminary bills relating to political parties and the origin of MPs have reportedly been completed by the Election Commission (EC).

EC member Boonsong Noisophon has been quoted as saying the bills would make it difficult to set up new parties and include strict rules to curb electoral fraud.

Meechai said yesterday he had not yet received the EC bills and dismissed reports that parties would be abolished to reset politics.

EC deputy secretary-general Thanit Sriprathet said yesterday the EC’s working groups were reviewing the organic law drafts, which the commission would consider before forwarding them to the CDC, hopefully within the next month.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he would not be susceptible to lobbying regarding the National Council for Peace and Order’s plan to appoint 30 additional NLA members.

Senate barred from nominating PM candidates, but can vote on lists

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30 new NLA members to be appointed to work on organic laws.

CHARTER DRAFTERS yesterday decided to exclude the Senate from a role in nominating candidates for prime minister but the Upper House will be eligible to vote with MPs to select the premier.

Candidates would be nominated by MPs and picked from the lists proposed by political parties, said Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) spokesman Udom Rathamarit. In the case of deadlock, in which the lists would be waived based on a two-thirds vote of the joint Parliament, MPs would still reserve the right to nominate other prime ministerial candidates, from the party lists or otherwise.

Senators will not have a role in nominating candidates in either case.

The Senate’s role in selecting the premier became controversial after voters approved the additional question proposed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) in the referendum earlier this month. Some NLA members then advocated that the Upper House be allowed to nominate candidates for the post in addition to voting for candidates proposed by the party lists.

Meanwhile, the government plans to appoint 30 additional legislators to sit in the NLA, which is currently comprised of 220 members, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday.

The newcomers would help to finish a backlog of work as well as to deliberate 10 organic laws after the new constitution draft comes into effect, he said. He added that there was not a hidden agenda.

The appointment would be made by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Wissanu said.

The new members would leave office with the other NLA members when the assembly is dissolved after the next government takes office, Wissanu said, adding that the interim constitution of 2014 would be amended to allow the additional 30 members to take their seats.

The process would take about one month to finalise, he said.

The NLA, which was established after the NCPO coup, has deliberated on more than 200 laws since it took office in July 2014, according to a work summary published in the Royal Gazette website in November 2014. Each NLA member receives a monthly salary between Bt113,560 and Bt125,590, as stipulated by a decree published in November 2014 on position allowances and other benefits for office holders under the 2014 interim charter.

Early in 2015, the assembly was rocked by a scandal as scores of its members allegedly hired family members as assistants who received monthly salaries of Bt15,000 to Bt20,000. Most of the controversial assistants resigned from their posts after the scandal erupted.

Surachai Liengboonlertchai, NLA vice president, said he was worried people would perceive the appointment of the additional legislators as a way for the current regime to retain power. He opposed the move in a joint meeting between the Cabinet, the NLA and the National Reform Steering Assembly yesterday, Surachai said, adding that any questions should be addressed directly to the government.

‘Senators should vote on parties’ lists of candidates to be PM’

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THE JUNTA and the Cabinet have suggested that the 250 handpicked senators should be allowed to join the 500 MPs to select a PM candidate from the list of nominees submitted by political parties, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.

In order to win the PM’s post, the candidate will require a majority backing, or 376 votes in Parliament, Prayut said.

If the two Houses are unable to choose a premier from the list of party nominees, then they will be allowed to select one from a list of outsiders, the premier added. However, those allowed to nominate a candidate to be PM in the second round would depend on charter drafters, he said.

“For me, a premier can come from anywhere as long as he is a ‘good man’ and can join the government with dignity,” Prayut said.

His remarks came after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the Cabinet came to a resolution in relation to the additional question that was accepted in the public referendum. The controversial question asked if the two Houses should consider naming the premier in the first five years of their first sitting.

The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) now needs to amend the draft charter in order to accommodate the additional question. Besides, the Senate’s role in selecting the premier has become controversial after the public accepted the additional question.

Some members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) proposed that the Upper House be allowed to nominate a PM candidate apart from voting for one from the three-candidates proposed by each party. The draft charter stipulates that all political parties put forward three nominees before the election. These nominees would become eligible for the premier’s post once their party wins a seat in the election.

However, some people disagree, saying that this goes beyond what voters approved in the referendum. NLA member Jate Siratharanont said yesterday that the Parliament, which includes the Senate, should be able to nominate a PM candidate if the MPs rejected party nominees in the first round.

Meanwhile, Prayut disagreed with NLA’s idea of allowing the Senate to both nominate and approve a PM candidate, which was proposed by the two bodies he leads. He said he would also have the governments’ legal team notify the CDC of these points.

“This additional question is necessary to solve political gaps caused by [the 2007 Constitution’s] Article 7,” Prayut stressed, referring to the now-defunct article which stipulates that any legal issues that go beyond legislation shall be considered by the constitutional monarchy.

This article has been cited by political groups as a legitimate means to seek a royally named premier in case there is a political deadlock.

Prayut had hinted earlier that the monarchy should not be “disturbed” via such an article.

“I insist that these fixes have nothing to do with the maintenance of power. Please stop these [rumours] at once,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jatuporn Promphan, a key leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, called on all political parties to sign a pact to not support an outsider or non-elected premier. He explained that this was the only way the issue of PM nomination could be resolved.

The red-shirt leader also dismissed ongoing debate about the Senate’s role in selecting a prime minister, saying that either way it was meaningless and did not guarantee that an outsider would not take on the job of the country’s leader.

“Don’t be misled by this debate and don’t pay attention to who will nominate a premier and when. Be afraid when political parties pretend that they have no other option but to side with an outsider prime minister,” he said, adding that in order to avoid this, parties need to announce now that they oppose an outsider PM.

NLA member Thani Onla-iad said the Senate should help MPs select a prime minister from parties’ proposed candidates, and if a candidate cannot be named for the top job, then the Senate should be allowed to nominate an outsider in the second round.

Separately, Prayut suggested that the interim charter’s Article 6 should be amended to expand the number of NLA members from 220 to 250 in order to accelerate the drafting process of more than 50 laws in the draft charter. They only needed to stay until the general election, he said.

“We need more [NLA] members because some of them have gone or resigned. I insist that this has nothing to do with their influence over the draft charter [process],” he added. General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and a key member of the NCPO, yesterday insisted that the NLA did not have a say in the interpretation of the additional question. He added that his question only comes under the jurisdiction of the CDC.

He also dismissed the NLA’s move to give the Senate the right to nominate a PM candidate, stressing that it was the CDC’s job, which will finally be decided by the Constitutional Court. The controversial extra question can be taken literally and does not need a new interpretation, he added.

NLA suggests senators could nominate PM candidates

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Selection process still unclear amid row over referendum question

THE National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday suggested the Senate might both nominate candidates and vote to select the next prime minister but leave the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) to decide how they will amend the draft in line with an additional question approved in the referendum.

The suggestion was raised in a joint meeting between the NLA and CDC yesterday.

NLA member Somchai Sawangkarn said the additional question could be interpreted in a broad or narrow manner.

One interpretation would be that the Senate could nominate candidates then vote along with MPs to select the PM, Somchai said after the two-hour meeting. Another was that the Senate could only vote in the later process to decide who would be premier.

He added that the Constitutional Court would rule if the charter amendment was in line with the people’s intention as reflected through this month’s referendum.

In the referendum, a majority of voters approved the NLA’s additional question that the Senate should join the MPs in selecting a prime minister, prompting the charter amendment. But controversy arose because it was unclear if the additional question meant the Senate would also have a role in the nomination.

NLA member Jate Siratharanont, who met with the CDC yesterday, said that the NLA suggested also that the prominent clauses in the charter draft remain unchanged – that MPs nominate the candidates for prime minister and the joint Parliament vote on who will be PM in the final process.

But if the MPs failed to agree on a list of candidates and it was waived, it was still unclear whether or not the Senate should help nominate other candidates, Jate said. He added that the various agents involved still had to discuss the issue.

However, chief charter writer Meechai Ruchupan said before meeting that the charter amendment should follow what the people had agreed in the referendum.

Meechai refused to say whether the additional question could be interpreted in a broader manner, but hinted metaphorically that the Senate should not have a right to nominate a candidate for PM.

Asked if the drafters would consider other political factors, too, before revising the draft, Meechai said the CDC could not consider anything other than what the people had allowed in the referendum.

He said the amendment could be completed by the end of the month before being forwarded to the Constitutional Court for review.

Attasit Pankaew, a political scientist from Thammasat University, said if senators were allowed to nominate PM candidates from the beginning of the process, it would make an election meaningless.

He said elected MPs should at least be given responsibility for proposing a prime minister and the Senate should only vote in the final process.

However, he added that if the MP-proposed lists were waived, it was possible that the Senate could give recommendations about proposing other candidates.

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday voiced her opposition to allowing selected senators to nominate a non-MP as prime minister.

She said that would be against the will of voters who approved allowing senators to vote with MPs in the selection of prime minister for five years after the new Parliament convenes for the first time.

There has been an attempt to interpret the referendum result in a way that would allow senators to nominate the prime minister, she said.

“I hope all the sides concerned will not do anything that is against the intention of the people. They have to respect the people so that things will continue peacefully,” she said before attending a hearing of a Supreme Court case against her.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha still did not rule out possibility of him remaining as premier after next year’s general election if his name was proposed by Parliament.

“I’m not opening or closing my chance [to be next PM],” Prayut said yesterday. “I just want to take it step by step. I could be blamed if I announce anything in advance, so I prefer not to say.”

Prayut stressed that it was too still too early for any assumptions on the next PM as legal processes for the general election had just begun.

He also cited the same reason to retain the junta’s ban on political gatherings of more than four people that has barred political parties from conducting meetings.

“It’s still not a time for them to ‘dress up’ and join the election [process]. Writing on organic laws hasn’t even started,” he said. “How could they dress if they don’t know the theme? Rules need to be set before they can get ready. Why hurry? The general election is next year.”Meanwhile, CDC member, retired General Niwat Sriphen, took ill during the panel’s meeting yesterday.

Niwat, 61, reported having chest pains and difficulty in breathing. Parliament officials gave him oxygen and a doctor examined him at the scene, according to CDC deputy chairman Suphot Khaimuk.

Suphot said Niwat was later taken home to recover. The CDC gave him a white garland as moral support.

Amendment must avoid deadlock, says drafter

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THE DEPUTY chief drafter of the new constitution yesterday called for an amendment to the charter draft to be written carefully to avoid a possible political deadlock.

Suphot Khaimuk, deputy chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), said an impasse could happen if the political parties that win most MP seats at the next general election did not submit their lists for prime ministerial candidates or the candidates withdrew before the House voted to elect the prime minister.

“The CDC has to consider this carefully to prevent political problems that may happen in the future.

“The most suitable words must be used,” he said.

In response to concerns the charter amendment will pave the way for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to become the government head again after the next election, Suphot said: “Whatever provisions are written, he could return to power. It will depend on the NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order] leader’s decision.

“But there are also other factors involved, such as his charisma and the acceptance [of him] by the public,” he said.

General Prayut also heads the NCPO.

Formerly a Constitutional Court judge, Suphot also said that the constitution drafters would hear from representatives of the National Legislative Assembly today in a meeting about amending the draft.

Additional question

The meeting will discuss the intent of the additional question suggested by the NLA at the August 7 referendum on the charter.

The question, which the public approved along with the draft constitution, relates to appointed senators joining MPs in choosing the prime minister.

The amendment to the original draft written by the CDC is required in order to accommodate most voters approving of appointed senators being involved in that selection process.

CDC members yesterday disagreed with an interpretation that senators should also have the right to nominate the prime minister.

Thienchai Nanakorn, one of the charter drafters, believes that the interpretation is broader than the additional question. Suphot said that the NLA had never stated that senators had the right to nominate the prime minister.

Lawyers question community protection provisions in draft

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LEGAL EXPERTS have disagreed with charter drafters over the level of community-rights protections in the draft constitution.

The legal group Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) published an article that states the constitution does not guarantee people’s rights to live in a safe environment and be able to express dissatisfaction against harmful projects

The article also states that the charter excludes non-governmental organisations and academics from participating in the consideration of projects that could be harmful to communities or the environment.

Yingcheap Atchanont, an iLaw coordinator, said the charter had many worrying issues concerning community rights and people’s right to live in a healthy environment, which were not guaranteed by Article 43.

“In the 2007 Constitution, it was stated in Article 67 that people and the community have the right to protect and preserve the environment to ensure they live normally in a safe environment, but this clause has disappeared from the draft constitution,” Yingcheap said.

Article 43 in the draft constitution states that communities have the right to sustainably manage, preserve, and use natural resources, the environment and biodiversity according to the law.

Constitution Drafting Commission spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni said the draft constitution would not only preserve community rights, but increase people’s rights to protect art, culture, natural resources, the environment and biodiversity under the government’s care.

“I assure you that all rights will be preserved under the new constitutional draft, as Article 25 of the charter states that all rights and the liberty of all Thai citizens are protected under the constitution, unless they violate the law, even though they are not specified in the charter,” Norachit said.

“Therefore, this draft provides more rights to the people than any previous constitution, as it is clarified in the second paragraph of the article [25] that if there is no law to limit rights, people or communities can exercise all their rights according to the constitution.”

He said this was the first time a constitution contained this clause, with people do not have to search through previous charters to see which rights were guaranteed.

He said it was also stated in Article 25 that people whose rights are violated could cite the constitution to claim back those rights or use it as a tool in a lawsuit.

Yingcheap said Article 67 of the 2007 Constitution gave people, public organisations focused on the environment and health protection, and academics the right to be involved in the consideration of projects that might harm the environment, including the use of natural resources and the health of communities.

This guarantee was not written into the rights and liberty section of the new constitutional draft, he added.

“The right to consider harmful projects has been transferred to become the government’s duty according to Article 58 of the draft charter, while people can only gather signatures and send a petition to the state, as written in the third paragraph of Article 43,” he said.

“It is also noted that the role of public organisations in relation to the environment and health, and the [role of] academics has entirely vanished from the draft constitution.”

Article 58 of the draft says the state must study environmental and health impact assessments on behalf of the public and arrange public hearings for affected communities concerning government or government-approved projects.

Norachit said the change had been made because it would be easier for the government to protect the rights of the public, while under the previous constitution people had to pressure the state to secure their rights.

“Moreover, the government also has the duty according to Article 57 [of the charter draft] to sustainably protect, maintain, restore and manage natural resources, the environment, and biodiversity with people and community participation,” he said.

Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer with the Community Resource Centre, said Article 57 meant the community would not have the power to manage the environment and would have to follow the government’s lead.

She said the charter could also cause uncertainty over whether people’s rights would be protected by the state, as many rights would only be guaranteed by the government.

“What should the people do if the government does not perform its duty to protect their rights? If we go to court, we must have our rights written to cite to the court,” she said.

“It will place more of a burden on affected people to fight the state in court, as they have to hire a lawyer. It still does not mention the lack of legal knowledge |among people.”